When I visited Arup’s New York offices, I was taken from the sunlit open areas on the fifth floor, down some stairs, through dark corridors, and into a windowless room with painted dark walls. There was a projector screen, someone by a computer, and a person in all black sitting off to the side. In the center of the room was a black leather swivel chair, semi-orb shaped and raised high. I was invited to sit. I said that the whole thing felt ominous, like I was being interrogated, but given that I was the interrogator in this situation, maybe it should’ve felt more like I was some B-movie villain, looking over some empire through digital screens. But this was no evil lair—this room was Arup's SoundLab, one of many across the firm's global offices, each varying in design but all with identical sound systems and sonic experiences. “Basically, you are currently sitting in a room that uses what's known as an Ambisonic sound system,” explained Raj Patel, the person in all black and a global leader of acoustics. "What the Ambisonic sound system does is it allows you to simulate sound in three dimensions. There's also a measurement technique that allows you to go and measure an existing space, capture its acoustics in three dimensions, and play it back here." It was in rooms like these that experiments were done to create a new sort of architectonic instrument in the form of a reverberation chamber for none other than Icelandic superstar Björk. “[Björk] often described two different voices that she uses for singing,” explained Arup associate and acoustic designer Shane Myrbeck, who had Skyped in from San Francisco to join the meeting. “One is the one she uses on stage, that's through the microphone, through the PA, and that's a specific emotion for her. And then there's the other voice that she uses when she's singing by herself or in a nice acoustic room.” She wanted to bring this latter experience to the stages she’ll be performing at as she travels on her Cornucopia tour, which is organized a bit like a series of theatrical residencies and began with sold-out shows at The Shed earlier this May. While Arup and Björk had been in conversation at multiple points over the past few years, the reverberation chamber was imagined just last year and was designed and built in under six months. “She was very focused on it sounding right first,” Myrbeck recounted. “We often work with architects, so there's a form to study or a palette of forms to study. In this case, our initial question, was ‘Okay, what do you want it to look like?’ And she was like, ‘Don't think of it that way. It needs to sound good first.’” Myrbeck said, “She wanted it to be as reverberant as possible…We kept using words like chapel or alluding to the cathedral-type sound.” However, cathedrals derive their distinctive sound in large part from their sheer volume, something that obviously couldn’t easily be toured across the world and mounted on any given stage. Still, “there are some precedents out there in the world,” explained Myrbeck. “Before they had digital reverbs, they would literally just have these concrete rooms in the basement and put a loudspeaker down there and just send the sound down to these chambers and record that. That was the old reverb effect. And those are pretty small rooms.” Another reference was the large-scale sculpture Tvísöngur, located on Iceland’s east coast. Opened in 2012 and designed by the German artist Lukas Kühne, the installation comprises five large concrete domes that echo the incoming wind at various harmonies. However, both of these examples were made of concrete, an unrealistic material to make a relatively large, but still easily transportable, chamber for stage out of. “[The reverberation chamber] needed to be something that she could tour with,” said Myrbeck. “A lot of the simulations that we did were materials studies.” The team used Rhino models with acoustic software that simulated the known resonances, derived from nearly a century’s worth of data, of different materials, like concrete, acrylic, plaster, and others. Inside these simulated environments the team at Arup used a sample of an isolated vocal track Björk had recorded for them and sent her the various ways it would sound in spaces of various materials and shapes, which she listened to on headphones in her own studio, and later, in a SoundLab. “One of the other things about a small room is that, just due to the size of acoustic waves, you get these very specific resonances in different places,” Myrbeck said. He compared it to the weird sonic effects of singing in your shower. In rooms like the SoundLab, where we met, one of the central design challenges is to minimize those effects in order to create a sort of neutral room that can simulate any space—whether an amphitheater, a train hall, or a small lobby. In the case of designing Björk's reverberation chamber, “it was just about embracing [those resonances] and trying to make them as evocative as possible so that Björk could experiment with those different resonances in the different places that she could stand in the chamber." Rather than eliminating all this sonic unevenness, the goal was to give the singer the power to "activate" it. In the end, Arup and Björk decided on an 16.4-foot-high, just-under 10-foot-wide octagonal structure with flat sides and a vaulted roof of molded plywood. There is one central microphone, while a few others are placed around the top perimeter. The design is modular and can easily be dis- and re-assembled. It also uses common materials: plywood and a plaster composite, about an inch thick, that has a similar density and resonance quality to concrete. These are materials that are easy to repair on the fly (while the roof is molded, the walls are just standard plywood sheets). The automated door and the transparent cutaways are acrylic, about an inch thick, while the floor is plywood and is slightly elevated so that it has its own resonant properties. The reverberation chamber has simple bolted connections that allow it to “be as airtight as possible while still allowing her to breathe freely,” protecting it against acoustic leakage. Björk will even invite inside the shows' flutists, whose own bodies reshape the resonant qualities of the compact chamber. “It's very much an instrument,” Myrbeck said, and serves as a way to literalize emotional shifts in the performance. “I think that one of the exciting things about the design process [with Björk] was her really sophisticated blend of the acoustic and natural and almost ancient tradition—there's not much more ancient than singing; it's one of the oldest forms of expression—and her embracing of the very futuristic, state-of-the-art digital technology," said Myrbeck. "The design process expressed that as well.”
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Three finalists have been invited to develop their ideas for new public spaces at a former General Motors site in Indianapolis. The developer Ambrose Property Group partnered with Exhibit Columbus and the Central Indiana Community Foundation to identify a shortlist of studios to develop specific areas of Waterside, a massive $1.4 billion redevelopment of the 103-acre former GM stamping plant site. The shortlisted teams are: 1) Hood Design Studio with Thomas Phifer and Partners and Arup; 2) SCAPE with SO-IL, Guy Nordenson and Associates, James Lima Planning + Development, Art Strategies, Nelson\Nygaard, and Manuel Miranda Practice; and 3) Snøhetta with Moody Nolan, Arup, HR&A, Art Strategies, and Chris Wangro. According to the announcement, the finalists were selected based on their experience working on projects of a similar size and scale as well as for their design acumen. Waterside was announced last year by Ambrose as a new downtown district on the site of the former GM plant that has sat in disuse since the motor company declared bankruptcy almost a decade ago. (The same site was also being proposed as a potential Amazon HQ2 hub by Indiana officials). It would include 1,350 residential units, 620 hotel rooms, 2.75 million square feet of office space, and 100,000 square feet of retail with a projected development timeline of 15 years. The Waterside Design Competition zeroes in on the adaptive reuse of 25,000 square feet of the Albert Kahn–designed Crane Bay; the design of a public plaza around Crane Bay; and a pedestrian connection across the White River to link the site to Indianapolis's urban core. The three teams will present their design philosophies and approaches to the public on June 12 in Indianapolis. Later in October, they will present their conceptual schemes, and the winner will be decided by a jury of community stakeholders and national experts.
We surveyed the leading women in the facade design and manufacturing industry and asked: What do you find most interesting about facade innovation today? What are you working on now and what do you think we will see in five years? Their responses, organized into six categories, offer an informal cross section of the challenges facing the facade industry—climate change, security—and of a coming multi-material revolution in facade design.Emilie Hagan Associate Director, Atelier Ten Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time and facade innovation presents an exciting way to take action. Over the next 12 years, we need to make big changes to reduce global emissions worldwide and within the built environment. Implementing innovative designs that balance embodied carbon reduction, energy performance, and life cycle is one way to make a difference. We are now testing the global warming potential of facade options by comparing pairings of cladding material and insulation that offer the same thermal performance. We’re looking at materials like polyiso, spray foam, and mineral wool, as well as ceramic tile, terra-cotta tile, and GFRC tile, which all vary greatly in terms of their life span, global warming potential, resource depletion, and acidification. Nicole Dosso Technical Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Beyond materiality, our 35 Hudson Yards project is emblematic of a collective process between the architect, developer, fabricator, and supplier. New Hudson Facades and Franken-Schotter, who quarried, supplied, and fabricated the Jura limestone used in the facade, helped to drive improved energy performance as well as optimize the geometry, manufacturing, and material selection. The return of materiality to the facade is a departure from the monolithic slick glass facades that have dominated the image of the super tall tower for the last two decades. The approach of combining materials pays homage to the historic fabric of New York City facades, which predominantly fancied the use of stone, brick, and terra-cotta. Doriana Mandrelli Fuksas Partner, Studio Fuksas The quality of projects over the last 20 years has grown a lot, and nobody and nothing prevents us from thinking that the creation can continue to expand. I have a positive vision of the future, a future made up of large infrastructures: of museums, of innovative workplaces, of spaces dedicated to new technologies, of spaces where people can meet. The Shenzhen Airport has the skin of a honeycomb-shaped beehive. No one knows where it comes from, but clearly it is variable from every point of view and changes with every change of light, internal or external. Imagining a facade seems too simple, but complicated, too. I let it arrive as the last stage or last section, from the center to the outside. At the end of a path inside the building, of a cinematographic montage that leads to discover what you want to see, the facade arrives. Unexpected, scandalously irreverent. Pam Campbell Partner, COOKFOX Architects One of our projects, One South First in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, uses large-scale, 3-D-printed molds to create pre-cast facade panels. We designed several variations of panels to respond to specific solar orientations; beyond the facade’s shape, the finish and crisp edges were particularly important, creating an interplay of reflection and shadow on the building’s surface. Odile Decq Founder, Odile Decq Studio Glass is a material that can solve in one all the questions an architect faces when designing a facade today: lighting outside and inside, protection from too much solar heating, isolation from the cold, providing a multiplicity of aspects, colors, textures, inclusion, and more. I’ve always said: if steel was the material for building innovation at the end of the 19th century, glass is the material for the end of the 20th century. From the beginning of my career I have been fascinated by glass evolution and the way facades have been modified thanks to this fantastic material. Its various qualities, its treatment, and its plasticity are what I am searching for in terms of innovation today. My research today is oriented toward sensible facades that can be joyful and sensual at the same time. Elena Manferdini Founder, Atelier Manferdini In particular, our office proposes an alternative language for traditional facades, based on vibrant color schemes and geometric patterns, along with augmented reality applications, whose aim is to engage new subjectivities. Passivity is the dominant state of today’s subject, who, conditioned to consume images, confuses them with reality; but our work suggests that a new breed of reactionary subjectivities is now possible. These imaginative facades become a political space for nuance and personal participation. Facades, even when buildings are privately owned, are important for the city at large because they are inevitably the background of our public imagination. Any facade language strategy is by default political because it negotiates how the privacy of human interactions comes to terms with a surrounding social and cultural context. Andrea Love Principal and Director of Building Science, Payette I am working on a tool to look at the impact glazing has on summer comfort to complement the Glazing and Winter Comfort tool we developed a few years ago. We’re also doing life cycle assessment of the typical facade systems we use to understand their embodied environmental impact. We are continuing to explore new ways to leverage simulation tools to understand performance and drive design on several projects across our office. The thing I find most interesting about facades today is the increase in attention paid toward their role in building performance and occupant comfort. Whether it is a high-performance facade for passive survivability for resiliency or consideration of the embodied carbon impact, I find it exciting to see how we as an industry are embracing the important role that facades play. Jennifer Marchesani Director of Sales and Marketing, Shildan Group When Shildan introduced terra-cotta rainscreen to the United States market 20 years ago, the panels were red, small, and flat. Now our capabilities are amazing. We just completed the Sentry Insurance Building in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, designed by Flad Architects, with the largest terra-cotta rainscreen panels in the world (10 feet long). We are seeing a trend toward complex terra-cotta shapes unitized in curtain walls on high-rise buildings. Custom 3-D shapes and curved terra-cotta elements are gracing more buildings, adding a complexity in production and systems, but resulting in unique, one-of-a-kind facades. Stacey Hooper Principal, NBBJ This is a time of revolutionary technology and digital fabrication, which is propelling imaginative industry partnerships to realize more complex, efficient, and high-performance building facades, built faster than ever before. This sea change will be pushed along by stricter codes, accountable system performance, and reduced market shares for curtain wall systems that don’t pursue meaningful change. Valerie L. Block Architectural Marketing Consultant, Kuraray America, Inc. I have seen more laminated glass used in facades over the past 20 years. There are several reasons for this, including building code requirements for impact protection of openings; blast and security requirements for exterior glazing in certain building types and locations; and a desire to incorporate minimally supported glass systems, where a concern for post-breakage glass retention has led to the specification of laminated glass. I have seen a growing concern over security. Architects working on K-12 and higher education projects are designing facades to resist intrusion, and in some cases, to provide ballistics resistance in the event of an active shooter. Tali Mejicovsky Associate, Facade Engineering and Building Physics, Arup I am most interested in designing for net zero energy and innovations that push for best performance. Some ideas include the use of FRP framing, thin glass in conventional assemblies, and designing for disassembly and recycling.
The Spruce Goose, a derogatory nickname for the Hughes H-4 Hercules, only flew once, but the largest plane ever built (entirely out of wood, to boot) continues to live on in pop culture ephemera. The plane has found a permanent home in Oregon’s Evergreen Aviation Museum, but the Los Angeles hangar where the Spruce Goose was built is getting a second shot at life. Under the timber hangar’s four-story-tall roof, ZGF Architects has completed a voluminous open office for Google that celebrates the building’s aeronautical heritage. Inside the 450,000-square-foot Playa Vista space, ZGF has restored the building’s historic Douglas fir “spine,” a series of curved ribs that support the ceiling, using wood salvaged from the hangar. Any leftover wood was used for furniture throughout the office. The Spruce Goose hangar was the largest timber building in the world when it was completed, and ZGF and engineers Arup mostly kept true to that legacy by scattering wooden finishes throughout and leaving the ceiling exposed. An enormous ship-like structure at the office’s core anchors the circulation routes and staircases to each floor, and according to ZGF, creates a “unique building-within-a-building design.” The hangar had largely laid dormant until Google took it over as a tenant, though in the past it’s served as a soundstage for films like Titanic and Avatar. In renovating such a cavernous space, ZGF punched skylights throughout the 750-foot-long building’s roof to maximize the amount of incoming daylight. The office space also features plenty of aviation-themed conference rooms, a fitness center, cafes, a 250-person event space, and aerial boardwalks that connect the first, second, and third floors. A “perception sculpture” made up of 2,800 hanging steel balls has been installed in the central atrium, that, when viewed from a specific angle, reveals the airy shape of the Spruce Goose plane. The references to Howard Hughes’s and the site’s place in aviation history is also celebrated throughout with placards and stories about the building, the Spruce Goose, Google, and L.A. Although Google has approximately 1,000 employees in the city, it’s unclear how many will work out of the Spruce Goose office. ZGF is no stranger to designing for tech giants and is currently part of the team renovating Microsoft's Redmond campus. “Los Angeles is an ideal home for Google’s newest office,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was on hand for a tour of the building over the weekend. “Our city is a hub of innovation, creativity, and homegrown talent that shaped the aerospace industry in the past and that’s redefining the tech sector today. “Expanding Google’s presence in Playa Vista connects an historic building with our dynamic future, a site that will serve as a hotbed of scientific excellence and economic success for years to come.”
The Steven Holl Architects (SHA)-led team has won the University College of Dublin's (UCD) Future Campus – University College Dublin International Design Competition. Holl’s winning scheme will see the creation of a “green spine” across the sixty-acre campus, and construction of a crystalline Centre for Creative Design. Steven Holl Architects was joined by Dublin-based Kavanagh Tuite Architects, Brightspot Strategy, structural engineers ARUP, landscape architects HarrisonStevens, and climate engineers Transsolar. Nearly 100 teams from 28 different countries entered the competition, and a star-studded shortlist featuring Diller Scofidio + Renfro, John Ronan Architects, O’Donnell + Toumey, Steven Holl Architects, Studio Libeskind, and UN Studio was revealed in April. The SHA-designed Centre will reportedly reflect the “60-million-year-old natural geometry” of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, filtered through the “stream of consciousness”-style prose found in UCD alumnus James Joyce’s Ulysses, according to Steven Holl. The resultant building is a geometric take on SHA’s more typical institutional work, with windows and balconies carved into prismatic shapes, including a gem-like auditorium faceted like a dodecagon. A plaza and reflecting pool will meet the building at its base. Inside, the center has been optimized for collecting natural light as the jutting crystal shapes—rotated 23 degrees in reference to the tilt of the Earth—will act as enormous solar tubes. The new building will contain classrooms and maker spaces bounded by glass walls, so visitors can peer into the academic areas without disrupting the work going on inside. The Centre will act as a gateway to the seven new quadrangular green spaces the team has designed, which will be interlinked through the new pedestrian “spine” that will run parallel to the campus’s existing circulation route. The SHA team has included a series of solar power-generating weather canopies along the route, as well as cafes and social gathering spaces. UCD was founded in 1854 and is the largest college in Ireland with over 30,000 students. The current 330-acre campus was designed in 1963 by Polish architect Andrej Wejchert and contains a large number of brutalist buildings. The Centre’s budget will be approximately $60 million, and no completion date has been given as of yet.
Long after the golden era of corporate modernist skyscrapers (think Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building, SOM’s Lever House, and so on), many contemporary office skyscrapers are still designed with traditional glass curtain walls that have low insulation and cause overheating from unnecessary direct sunlight. Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) conjured an otherworldly alternative for Shenzhen International Energy Mansion: a sawtooth, zigzagging curtain wall comprising glass panels and powder-coated aluminum that blocks direct sunlight, thereby reducing solar gain by up to 30 percent. The 1-million-square-foot structure is composed of two towers and a nine-story connecting block complete with a shared cafeteria, conference rooms, and various retail shops: The uppermost 13 floors of the 42-story north tower houses the Shenzhen Energy Mansion headquarters. As a starting point, BIG considered the subtropical climate in Shenzhen, gauging how they could create comfortable working spaces in hot and humid conditions while at the same time reducing energy consumption. The solution? A passive facade. “Our proposal for Shenzhen Energy Mansion enhances the sustainable performance of the building drastically by only focusing on its envelope, the facade,” said Andreas Klok Pedersen, partner and design director at BIG. Collaborating with Transsolar, the design studio dedicated to addressing climate change, the firm employed various solutions to reduce solar-derived heat and glare without relying on machines or heavy glass coating (which would make views out seem gray and bleak). The building has achieved two out of three stars with the Chinese Green Building Evaluation Label and a LEED Gold rating. BIG and Transsolar developed a multifaceted passive program with a facade folded in an origami-like shape consisting of closed and open subsections. The closed sections provide high insulation values by blocking direct sunlight. “With solid facade panels on the southeast and southwest side for shading, the glazed facade facing northwest and northeast is able to achieve high sustainability requirements with more clarity and less coating,” said Pedersen. All in all, the effect enhances the environmentally sustainable performance of the building and creates an office mise-en-scène bathed in soft light reflected from the direct sunlight diffused between interior panels. Meanwhile, the double glazing applied to the low-e tempered Super Energy-Saving Insulated Glass Units (IGU) by Shanghai Yaohua Pilkington Glass on the folded facade provides open views through the clear glass in one direction via a series of simple deformations in the geometry that allows for larger openings. These interjecting pockets of glass create cavernous folds that interrupt the smooth facade in various interior areas, including lobbies, recreational areas, and meeting areas. This seemingly precarious arrangement of views is made possible by the aluminum cladding's comprising full-height extruded panels that form a meandering profile. The setup enables the panel system to interlock smoothly, creating a uniform surface with almost seamless joints. A profile of twists and turns accentuates the reflections of light. In effect, these solid facade panels located on the southeast and southwest sides directly obstruct solar penetration. “The amount of insulation used in the curtain wall is a result of optimization between visibility and sustainability,” said Pedersen. Location: Shenzhen, China Architect: Bjarke Ingels Group Consulting Architect: SADI Shenzhen Architecture and Design Institute Contractor: CSCEC Engineer: ARUP Facade Consultants: Front, Inc. and Aurecon Facade Contractor: Fangda Group Sustainability Consultant: Transsolar Glass Manufacturer, Supplier, Glazing: Shanghai Yaohua Pilkington Glass Group Co., Ltd Windows: Aumüller Exterior Cladding Panels: Xingfa Aluminum
From now until September 3, the MoMA will be exhibiting Dream The Combine’s winning scheme for this year’s Young Architects Program (YAP), as well as the other four finalists’ work. Hide & Seek opens to the public at MoMA PS1 on June 28, but until then, the MoMA exhibition provides a sneak peek that should tide over visitors. Hide & Seek Design: Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers of Dream The Combine in collaboration with Clayton Binkley of ARUP Structural Engineering: Clayton Binkley and Kristen Strobel, ARUP Project Team: Max Ouellette-Howitz, Nero He, Tom Vogel, Emmy Tong, and Erik Grinde, with support from UMN School of Architecture Dream The Combine is the 19th YAP winner. The firm's scheme will create a series of dynamic pavilions across PS1’s courtyard and up the steps to the museum. Nine overlapping black steel catwalks will stretch across the open area, including inaccessible platforms hovering overhead. Three of the paths will hold giant, moveable mirrors that can “turn an individual into a crowd” or unify separate elements of the installation. Fabric sails will be floated overhead at certain points and fitted with misters to create an ethereal and spacey feeling at night. Hide & Seek is, according to Jennifer Newsom, an attempt to create an ever-changing experience in PS1’s courtyard by building new visual connections throughout the space and beyond. Shelf Life Design: LECAVALIER R+D, Jesse LeCavalier Project team: Ayesha Ghosh, Jesse McCormick, Zachary White Structural engineering support: LED - Laufs Engineering Design, New York City & Berlin What exactly is “logistics”? How can we better connect and explore the invisible machinery that drives modern global commerce? For Shelf Life, LECAVALIER R+D re-appropriates the stacking and racking machinery usually found in factories and turns it into an immersive exhibition structure. In their proposal, furniture is built straight into the massive frame, and the entire pavilion would be disassembled and integrated back into the global logistics stream at the end of summer. Out of the Picture Project Team: FreelandBuck, Alex Kim, Taka Tachibe, Belinda Lee, Braden Young, Adin Rimland, Michael Raymundo, Adrian Lanetti, Evan Preuss, Jose Avila Structural Engineering by Matthew Melnyk of Nous Engineering Out of the Picture sought, much like Hide and Seek, to “bring the outside in” to PS1’s courtyard. Enormous fabric banners are stretched across the central plaza and decorated with distorted images of the surrounding buildings. The result is a reinterpretation of the neighborhood from a new perspective, transformed but still readable. Loud Lines Design: BairBalliet Structural Consultants: Walter P Moore, Kais Al-Rawi, Quinton Champer Project Team: Chaoqun Chen, Jose Garcia, Andrew Lang, Spencer McNeil, Ruta Misiunas Lines and vectors are often abstract concepts on a screen in architecture, but BairBalliet sought to translate the often-striking lines in diagrams into tangible structures. During the day, Loud Lines is solid black and imposing, but at night, the structure pulses with neon light from within. The rods emit a cooling mist to further blur the lines between the real and the immaterial. The Beastie Design: OFICINAA: Silvia Benedito and Alexander Häusler. Cambridge, MA, and Ingolstadt, Germany The Beastie proposed a technologically forward-thinking assemblage in PS1’s courtyard; an interactive structure that would have turned solar energy into ice. Inside the multi-walled chambers of The Beastie, visitors would explore a range of different temperatures, ranging from pleasant to freezing. More than a cool-down station, The Beastie was intended to raise awareness of climate change by exposing guests to “climatic confusion”. All of the YAP finalists were required to design an outdoor shelter that included shade, water, and seating. After the proposals are finished showing at the MoMA, the installation will travel to MAXXI (Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo) in Rome, and CONSTRUCTO in Santiago.
After delays of almost a year, Staten Island's giant Ferris wheel is finally back on track. Earlier this month, the aggrieved parties reached a deal in court that allows construction on the New York Wheel to move forward. The New York Wheel hired Holland's Mammoet-Starneth to design and engineer the 630-foot-tall North Shore amusement, which sits steps away from the ferry drop-off in St. George. According to the Staten Island Advance, the company left the job on May 26, 2017, and it filed for bankruptcy five months ago. The New York Wheel fired Mammoet-Starneth from the job soon after. The two entities started mediation in March, but they weren't able to come to an agreement in court—until now. Among its key provisions, the new agreement vacates the lawsuit between the two companies and lets the New York Wheel hire a new contractor to finish the job. It has selected American Bridge and ARUP, the construction company and the massive engineering firm, respectively. Per the agreement, the New York Wheel has until early September to scrounge up financing for the venture—and it can cut loose from the deal if it can't find the money. So far, the company has raised $400 million of the wheel's $580 million estimated cost from investors, but at this point the New York Wheel is mum on how much of that money has been spent. On the New York Wheel's website, S9 Architecture and Perkins Eastman are listed as the architects behind the project. The wheel is supposed to be a supposed to be a draw for New Yorkers and tourists alike, many of whom are predicted to descend upon the adjacent Empire Outlets, the city's first outlet mall. SHoP Architects is designing that complex, which is slated for completion this fall.
The rise of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is inevitable and—depending on who you ask—they’ll either eliminate car crashes and save the environment, or muscle out pedestrians from the street, steal our personal data, and create biblical levels of gridlock in our cities. But despite the divide over how the technology should be implemented, the common thread that runs between apostles and bashers alike is the belief that cities, planners, and architects are woefully unprepared for the changes self-driving cars will bring. In November 2017, the AIA held an event centered on the topic, "Anticipating the Driverless City,” and the furor seems justified following the death of a pedestrian at the grille of an autonomous Uber car. “Planners think in 30-year increments, and autonomous vehicles are already hitting the streets today,” Nico Larco, co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon, said. “Urban planners should be terrified.” Larco’s not wrong. Only a few states even have regulations for driverless cars, let alone ideas for designing a future without parking. With Ford launching self-delivering pizzas in Miami, Google’s Waymo rolling out an autonomous ridesharing service in Arizona, and driverless taxis making inroads in cities all over the world, architects and planners will either need to look ahead or be stuck in triage mode. Sam Schwartz, former New York City Traffic Commissioner from 1982 to 1986 and founder of his eponymous traffic and transportation planning and engineering firm, has categorized the potential futures as “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” The “good” A utopic self-driving car scenario would have driverless cars constantly circulating and on the prowl for riders, while providing “first mile, last mile” access to and from souped-up mass-transit corridors. If AVs truly take off and replace a sizable portion of manned cars on the street, then parking lots, garages, and driveways—not to mention thousands of square feet of on-street parking per block—would sit vacant. Walking, cycling, and autonomous (electric) buses would feature heavily in a multi-modal transit mix, and streets would narrow as bioswales and strips of public parks replaced parking spots. There has been movement on designing for that future; FXCollaborative, HOK, Arup, KPF, and other prominent firms have all put forward scalable designs for reclaiming the urban fabric. Speculation has already forced public officials in Pittsburgh to put together plans for integrating self-driving cars into the city’s fabric by 2030, and developers in New York are building flexible parking garages that can easily be converted for other uses. However, the key to actually enacting any of these schemes lies in large-scale government intervention. Without a concerted top-down reclamation and conversion of unused streets, AV-centric zoning policies, or renewed investment in mass-transportation options, cities will never be able to integrate AVs into their infrastructure. The largest hurdle to achieving the “good” future isn’t technological, it’s political; even self-driving evangelists have conceded that a laissez-faire approach might result in increased traffic on the road. The “bad” Uber, Lyft, Google, and a raft of competitors are already jostling to bring self-driving taxis to market so that these companies won’t have to pay human drivers. Under the guise of preventing traffic fatalities—there were nearly 40,000 lives lost in the U.S. alone in 2017—the big players are lobbying all levels of government to allow their AVs on the street. If vehicle miles traveled per person in AVs were allowed to increase without intervention, society could slide into an ugly scenario. This dystopic outcome would see mass transit hollowed out by a lack of funding and pedestrians shunted out of the streets in the name of safety. Studies have already shown that existing ridesharing services increase congestion and cause bus services to deteriorate, and if commuters get fed up with slow commutes and turn to ridesharing services, mass transit options could be sent into death spirals due to decreased revenue. Driverless cars are often touted as being spatially efficient, especially as they can join each other to form road trains—tightly packed groups of vehicles moving along optimized routes. But considering how much space on the road 40 bicycles or 40 commuters in a bus would take up, the flaw in that thinking becomes self-evident. Even if artificial intelligence can route traffic more effectively than a human, putting more cars on the road offsets the gains in speed by decreasing the amount of space available. Although computers might be great at coordinating with each other, the external human element will remain a wild card no matter what. Well-planned cities that prioritize walkability and ground-level experience would place pedestrians over passengers, but a worst-case scenario could see cyclists and walkers forced to wear locator beacons so that AVs could “see” them better, while hemmed in behind fencing. The “ugly” The worst driverless car scenarios take Le Corbusier’s famous claim that “the city built for speed is the city built for success” to heart. The high-speed arterial thoroughfares Corbusier envisioned in The Radiant City were realized in the destructive city planning policies of the 1950s and '60s, but municipalities have spent heavily to correct their mistakes 50 years later. Much in the same way that widening roads actually worsens traffic, if planners and architects ignore or give deference to driverless cars and continue to prioritize car culture in their decisions, congestion, gridlock, and withered public transit systems are sure to follow. The adoption of self-driving technology will likely birth new building typologies with unique needs, from centralized hubs where the cars park themselves to AV repair shops. As futurist Jeff Tumlin, principal and director of strategy at Nelson/Nygaard, points out, self-driving cars aren’t a new concept. Their lineage can be directly traced to ideas introduced by GE at the 1939 World’s Fair, but this is the first time that the technology has caught up with the vision. Planners and politicians have had 80 years to grapple with solutions; they can’t afford to take any longer.
Few buildings are as quintessentially British and Brutalist as Robin Hood Gardens, a London housing estate designed by Alison and Peter Smithson in the late 1960s. And now, remnants of the complex are heading to Italy, where the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) will present a facade section of the demolished icon as part of the Venice Biennale. (It's actually a return to Venice for the late architects, who displayed billboard-sized images of the under-construction buildings at the Biennale in 1976.) The Robin Hood Gardens housing block has never been far from the center of the debate of social housing since the Smithsons first unveiled plans for a concrete mass of residences linked by "streets in the sky." And now that it's being demolished to make way for a new development—all while cities around the globe struggle to house growing populations—that controversy is more in the news than ever. Though Peter Smithson himself expressed his regrets about the failures of the design, Robin Hood Gardens found a legion of supporters, if not strictly for its Brutalist design, then for its place within the conversation about urbanism. In fact, an all-star lineup of contemporary architects including Richard Rogers, Robert Venturi, Toyo Ito, and the late Zaha Hadid, came together to protest the buildings' demolition. When it became clear that plans would move forward, the V&A stepped in—on the urging of London firm Muf architecture/art—to acquire a nearly 29-foot high by 18-foot-wide by 26-foot-deep cross-section of the housing complex. The museum will be presenting a fragment from the estate at the Pavilion of Applied Arts in the Sale d’Armi in the Arsenale, from May 26 to November 25, 2018. The segment will be displayed on a scaffolding system designed by Arup, the firm that engineered the original Robin Hood Gardens, while a film by artist Do Ho Suh will document the structure. Additional documents and interviews will give context to the social history of the complex. ‘The case of Robin Hood Gardens is arresting because it embodied such a bold vision for housing provision yet less than 50 years after its completion, it is being torn down," said pavilion curators Christopher Turner and Olivia Horsfall Turner in a joint statement. "Out of the ruins of Robin Hood Gardens, we want to look again at the Smithsons’ original ideals and ask how they can inform and inspire current thinking about social housing."
Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) is facing community backlash over recently unveiled plans to bring a double-pronged, mixed-use tower to Vauxhall, South London. As reported by the Architect’s Journal, the building was submitted for local council approval in December, but has caught the public’s ire over the 53-story and 42-story towers that would rise right on the bank of the River Thames. Linked by an 11-story base, the Vauxhall scheme would hold 257 apartments and 618 hotel rooms across the two towers, as well as seven floors of office space in the base and retail at the ground level. Both the towers and the base will feature a glass curtain wall overlain with a unifying exoskeleton-like façade that stretches and decompresses as the building rises, exposing uninterrupted glass near the top. It would also become the tallest building in the emerging Vauxhall area, with the taller tower potentially topping out at about 607 feet. It would be ZHA’s first major mixed-use residential building in the United Kingdom, and the studio sees it as a “breakthrough project,” according to the Architect’s Journal. Local critics see the development as a “two-fingered salute.” The site had previously won permission for a pair of 41- and 31-story towers designed by London’s Squire & Partners, and residents, as well as non-profit groups, are gearing up to contest the development. “Although these buildings are better designed than the Squires ones, this application is attempting to add more height by stealth,” architect Barbara Weiss told the Architect’s Journal. ‘The River Thames is becoming a canyon and the price to the skyline of Boris Johnson’s liberal approach to tall buildings is becoming increasingly clear.” Other than the project’s height, advocates are also outraged over the lack of specific affordable housing promises, the decrease in residential units from the prior Squires plan, and the projected traffic congestion the project would cause. Compounding the controversy is that the ZHA towers would rise next to the iconic Vauxhall bus station, which was designed by ARUP in 2005 and now faces demolition only 13 years later. ZHA has for their part, pushed back against the controversy and claimed that fears of congestion or shadows were without merit. Jim Heverin, ZHA’s director, told the AJ that the studio was still in talks with the project’s developer over finalizing the number of affordable housing units. ‘When we came onto this scheme, it was right that we looked at the heights,’ said Heverin. “We evolved the scheme to create a new public square. Our scheme takes less land on the ground but is higher. There is a lot more density coming into this area. Our project fits within a master plan that has been looked at by Transport for London.” The soaring Vauxhall towers plan would seem to fit well with ZHA head Patrick Schumacher’s fondness for density and what the Guardian has called a propensity for “neoliberal privatization schemes.”
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced the 19 finalists in three categories for the MTA Genius Transit Challenge today. Winners will be declared in early 2018 and will receive up to a $1 million genius award (or the profit of 363,636 card swipes, according to the New York Times). The MTA assembled a panel of technology and transportation experts to review the 438 submissions, narrowing it down to 64 and then 19. During phase two of the competition, the final contenders refined and elaborated on their original submissions. The three categories are: to improve signaling, to identify strategies to better deploy subway cars, and increase communications infrastructure. Each submission in these categories was reviewed on “its ability to fulfill the Challenge’s core objectives, whether it could be implemented in a rapid timeframe throughout the Subway System, innovativeness, and cost-reasonableness.” With the recent release of the RPA’s newest plan, we can only hope at least a few improvements are made, genius or otherwise. FINALISTS IN THE SIGNALS CATEGORY AECOM: Intelligent Alignment of Service Delivery to Customer Demand Alstom: Train-Centric Peer-to-Peer CBTC Ansaldo STS: Video Odometry, Heads-Up Display and Augmented Reality Arup: Acorn: Autonomous Car Operating Rail Network Robert James (Individual): Connected Vehicles & Ultra-Wideband for Communications & Location Metrom Rail : Positive Train Control System based on Ultra-Wideband Siemens : Dramatically Accelerate Communications-Based Train Control Deployment Thales Group: Several Integrated Ideas to Accelerate Communications-Based Train Control Deployment Thales Group: Next Generation Positioning: Autonomous Train Car Platform FINALISTS IN THE CARS CATEGORY Alstom: Upgrades to Improve Subway Car Reliability Craig Avedisian (Individual): Modify Cars to Enable Trains to Have 4 More Cars Bombardier: Modular Car Concept Utilizing a Common Vehicle Platform CRRC MA: Technology-Advanced Cars with Shorter Vehicle Lifecycle CSINTRANS: Open Information System to Improve Operations Efficiency & Customer Communications Faiveley (Wabtec): Newly Developed Brake Control System FINALISTS IN THE COMMUNICATIONS CATEGORY Alcatel-Lucent (Nokia): Standards-Based Trackside Private LTE Network with an IP/MPLS Backbone Alstom: Multi-Service High Capacity, Flexible Network Bechtel: The Big B: Semi-Automated Robotic System Transit Wireless: Dedicated LTE Network to Connect Trains to Tunnel Entrances and Trackside Radios The MTA Genius Transit Challenge Finalist Judges Sarah Feinberg, Former Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration Daniel Huttenlocher, Dean and Vice Provost, Cornell Tech Charles Phillips, CEO, Infor; Former Co-President and Director, Oracle Kristina Johnson, Chancellor-elect, SUNY Nick Grossman, General Manager, Union Square Ventures Eliot Horowitz, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, MongoDB Balaji Prabhakhar, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Stanford University Joe Lhota, Chairman, MTA Pat Foye, President, MTA Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, Managing Director, MTA Janno Lieber, Chief Development Officer, MTA